Waiting outside the governor's office, there was no celebration by non-profit advocates. Mark Pazniokas / CT Mirror
Nonprofit advocates staked out the governor’s office during last year’s legislative session.. Mark Pazniokas / CT Mirror

Once again, as we begin a new decade, Connecticut’s non-profits are at the mercy of state budget adjustments. One reason is that policymakers do not understand the importance of human services and why they are essential in our (their) communities. Human services are often perceived as charity for people who have not taken advantage of their opportunities, not worked hard enough and made poor decisions. It is believed that it’s their own “fault” that they need help. These assumptions are flat out wrong.

Journey Found, Inc. provides vital resources, programs and services to adults with a variety of intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) throughout the state. Through residential services, day programs, adult recreation, self-advocacy and community outreach, Journey Found serves 83 program participants on a daily basis as well as employing over 289 industry professionals living throughout the state. Journey Found gives people hope, purpose and the help they need.

The unmet needs of those with I/DD remain high and are only increasing.  A study from the Family and Individual Needs for Disability Supports (FINDS) reported by  The ARC National , finds that “62% of families report that services are being cut in the community, limiting or eliminating access to community life and opportunities for their family member with I/DD.”  This means that nearly one-third of families nation-wide find themselves on a never-ending wait list for services such as self-advocacy, housing, transportation, respite, personal assistance and day services, which are critical important to maintaining a purposeful life.

It is estimated that more than one million individuals may never receive services due to inadequate funding. With Connecticut facing a budget shortfall this year, the governor is again considering cuts to community nonprofits. Any additional reductions would have a devastating effect on community nonprofits and could bring staff layoffs and elimination of programs for individuals in a time when the demand for services across the state continues to rise.

Connecticut currently has $2.5 billion in its rainy-day fund. And while the General Fund is on pace to finish the fiscal year on June 30 about $60 million in the red, according to the latest calculations, another program that forces the state to save a portion of tax receipts tied to investment income is on pace to add $318 million to the reserve. If money can’t be dedicated to nonprofits now, then we have to wonder when if ever this ever-growing population will become a priority.

According to the  Connecticut Nonprofit Alliance , since 2002, state spending for nonprofits has grown by about 10%. After adjusting for inflation, nonprofits say they have lost money. The governor should reconsider dedicating $100 million from state budget reserves to help reverse this funding trend, not make cuts.

We need to address increasing needs in the community. The programs and services Journey Found provides to the residents of Connecticut are a vital part of our cities and towns, allowing families, seniors and individuals with complex needs to live productive lives in the community, and contributing to making Connecticut a great place to live and raise a family. Let’s solve these problems together.

Benjamin Davies is an advocate for Journey Found, Inc.

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